Hytner (as the ceremony's guest speaker) was referring to memories of the previous year's awards, when an altercation between Evening Standard theatre critic Nicholas DeJongh and politician-turned-critic Michael Portillo was widely reported enough to make it onto the pop culture website Pop Bitch.
After the amusing introduction, Hytner proceeded to lambast the British government's current proposal to pass a law banning material that could incite religious hatred. In the wake of Bezhti, the play infamously canceled in Birmingham after Sikh mobs turned violent, Hytner saw the new bill as potentially devastating for theatre. It would, he argued, hit plays. "I claim unequivocally to be as offensive as I choose. And I unequivocally claim the right to do whatever play I choose," he said to widespread applause.
The ceremony was attended by a roll-call of well-known theatre stars. Among them were Alan Bennett, Jonathan Pryce, Michael Attenborough, Matthew Marsh, Richard Griffiths and Herbert Kretzmer. Also present were Lee Evans, Conleth Hill and Brad Oscar, taking a break from starring in The Producers in the same building. Bennett, one of the winners (The History Boys was named Best Play), used his acceptance speech to bemoan the fact that his play, about the British education system, was "not being seen as part of the current debate on the subject." "People still think that if something is funny and entertaining than it's not serious," said Bennett. "It is a serious play and a sad one."
The winners were:
Best Newcomer - Eddie Redmayne, for The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?
Most Promising New Playwright - Rebecca Lenkiewicz, for The Night Season
Best Designer - Christopher Oram, for Suddenly Last Summer
Best Director - Rufus Norris, for Festen
Best Shakespearean Performance - Paul Rhys, for Measure for Measure
Best Actress - Victoria Hamilton, for Suddenly Last Summer
Best Actor - Richard Griffiths, for The History Boys
Best Musical - The Producers
Best New Play - The History Boys